I'm still, nearly 30 years after being married, trying to manage my grocery budget. Add the managing the budget to managing my new preferred diet, DH and DD2's preferences, and it could spiral out of control. While I ambitiously challenge myself to stay at $350 for household necessities and food, my targeted budget is really $400. I've gone over some months, and grossly under others, and have had quite a few months, where that $350 was actually in the ball park.
I'm not a good deal stacker and couponer. If the Sunday paper inserts match the ads on health, beauty and cleaning, I take advantage of them, but I have no filing system. I try and stock up to a small extent on things we regularly use and don't want to run out of and be caught off guard and pay full price, like toilet paper, laundry soap, female products, toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner and deodorant. I rely on several pantry staples to squeeze my budget and stretch my trips to the grocery store as long as possible. This has been harder for my personal eating since limiting rice, white flour, and pasta from what I eat, but still works for the others-I just skip those items or greatly reduce my portion. Low cost beans and oatmeal are used heavily in my cooking lately to bulk up the dish on the cheap, yet provide a boost of protein as I try and reduce pricey meat portions. This has meant simple, perhaps mundane meals, but as the weather is nice, we all just want to be fed and get on with our days and evenings.
I'm shopping at Aldi's more, and picking up things at the Dollar Tree that are cheaper than Target, drug stores, or the grocery stores. I can't justify spending $3 or more on a bag of Doritos or bag of potato chips for summer gatherings and snacking by my family when I can buy, in moderation, for less than 1/2. I'm not just changing my families habits. I've reduced the amount of coffee-just the two cups usually now in the morning, and drink more tea, which gives me several cups from a single tea bag. I've cut at least $20 a month, perhaps more, since giving up my Diet Coke compulsion and drink just water or Dollar Store packets of Wylers lemonade.
My strategies are small, and nothing earth shattering. If I had more time, took more time, I could maximize the budget a bit more. I found this table, a few years old from 2015, interesting. The USDA Official Plan recommends that for my family, a thrifty food budget (food only) would be $502.10. I spend at least 20% less than that and am not a super shopper. However, I can cook and have storage to buy bigger quantities of items at a better price. I am also brand neutral, going for the lower cost version on most things, a few exceptions, as long as it is still good.I still use several convenience foods.If I had to walk home from the store or rely on public transportation, I'd buy smaller sizes and shop more often. I'm sure my costs would increase then as I find just entering a store more than once a week impacts my budget.